Handler Highlight: Susan Barnes

Susan Barnes is our handler of the week.┬á We wanted to spotlight Susan since she has been part of the DockDogs┬« family for 8 years. ┬áTanner first started to jump with Susan at the America’s River Festival in Dubuque, IA in 2005. ┬áTanner is a 12.10 year old German shorthair pointer. Tanner is an Elite Jumper and Cadet, a 2010 DockDogs┬« Hall of Fame Inductee, and a 5 times National Champion.

Susan also jumps two other dogs.  Lucky is  a 13.3 year old German shorthair pointer who is  a novice jumper.  Lucky started jumping in DockDogs® competitions in 2006. Bella, a 3.10 year old Golden Retriever, has been involved in the DockDogs® family since 2010.  Bella is a senior jumper and was  a 2011 junior National Champion.Sue Barnes & Tanner

Susan also has Tate and Tini.┬á They are 3.10 year old German Shorthair Pointers who are part of the Team MYTDOG‘s “paw crew”.┬á They are still waiting to jump.

Susan has been a competitor in both Big Air┬« and Extreme VerticalÔäó events in DockDogs┬« competitions. I asked her what her favorite DockDogs┬« discipline is:

My favorite is Big Air┬« because I feel like it takes the most teamwork and skill for both my dog and me. I’m a sports minded and competitive person.┬á I like having an active part in this sport with my dogs. I like that my success or failure at doing my part (from dock routine, down stay, and the throw) to make everything work just right plays a role in our accomplishment.

Part of what makes DockDogs® so great is that any dog can participate; mixed to purebred, over 6 months old to legend dog, and dogs of all sizes too! I asked Susan how she originally got involved in DockDogs® and dock diving:

I have always been an avid watcher of dock diving on the Great Outdoor Games and the Retriever series in the early 1990’s. I was one of those people that thought ‘I bet Tanner could do that’.

Susan said she knew she had to participate with Tanner when she saw the 2004 ESPN Great Outdoor Games in Madison, WI. Unfortunately she was unable to participate in that yearÔÇÖs events; although she did have an insightful moment and knew that she had to be a competitor. Initially mostly young Labs and Chesapeake’s were competing.┬á Tanner was already 5 years old. She recalls

I saw an amazing German Shorthair Pointer named ‘Sarge’ that proved that retrievers weren’t the only big jumping dogs.┬á He became our DockDogs┬« inspiration and idol [sic].

In 2005 Susan was able to try DockDogs® out for herself right in her own backyard in Dubuque for the Great Outdoor Regional Qualifier. To practice her dock diving skills Susan gained permission from local marinas to jump from their docks into the backwaters of the Mississippi.

It wasn’t the most ideal situation for training, it did give us many audiences from the boaters and local bar patrons that would sit and watch us! We practiced but I had no idea how we would do, honestly I was just excited to meet the many great dogs and handlers I had seen on TV and have some fun with Tanner. [sic]

It proved to be fun and more; Susan had fun with Tanner, met some fantastic people, and went home with some placement ribbons and jumps in the 18 to 19 foot range.

I know that Susan is not alone in finding that DockDogs┬« is not only a competition; it’s about being a part of a greater community. As I said above any dog can jump as long as they are over 6 months old at the time of the competition.

I asked Susan to provide some tips on how to get started as a new handler.

Remember that DockDogs┬« is MORE than just a sport, it’s an activity and YOU make it what you want it to be. The activity of DockDogs┬« is what your dog ALWAYS sees, and the SPORT is what we humans make it. Don’t ever let the ‘sport’ side of DockDogs┬« ruin the fun for you and your dog! Remember, it’s just dogs jumping off a dock and having fun! [sic]

In 2009 DockDogs┬« celebrated it’s 10 year anniversary so we wanted to ask Susan where she thought DockDogs┬« would be in another 10 years.

I think that in 10 years we will find that even if there are new disciplines, Big Air┬« will always remain the heart of DockDogs┬«. I think we will all be amazed by the increased number and variety of dogs that will be competing. We will find that there are many ‘state of the art’ facilities to train at, with even more in the works. I think we may find that with the increase in jump distances and skill, not only will there be pools that are longer, but we may find that events are specific to ‘pro’ and ‘amateur’ some day. The scoring and equipment will be even more technologically advanced and there will be much less human judgment needed for events. Clubs will have multiplied and DockDogs┬« will be seen on TV more regularly and the sport will be highly recognized. Maybe someday we will even have a National DockDogs┬« events center with the Hall of Fame┬áand a museum. All I know is that I hope in ten years I’m still around and having fun with my dogs on the dock.

We would like to thank Susan Barnes for being our first DockDogs® Handler Highlight post.  We also want to remind you to stay tuned as we continue to bring you news about upcoming events, event recaps, training tips, and more. 2012 will be an exciting year for the DockDogs® sport, the community, and sanctioned facilities.  Sometime this week we will bring you a training tips article by Tom Dropik of SportMutt Inc..

Where do you think DockDogs® will be in 10 years from now? Let us know by using the comments section below.  Use a free Disqus account, Facebook Connect, Twitter account, Google account, Yahoo, or OpenID.